Northern Ireland prison to become hotel

Armagh Gaol, an operational prison in Northern Ireland until 1986, is set to become a hotel and spa.

The listed building, which is an historic landmark dating from 1780, will be subject to a £23 million redevelopment that will turn it into a hotel with apartments. Viewers of the BBC’s Restoration programme, which was on air a few years ago and which involved a number of historic buildings competing for redevelopment funds, will recognise the former prison as one of the competing structures.

Seven shops are included in the design plans, in addition to 32 apartments, the hotel and spa and a heritage centre. The BBC has reported that the hotel’s en suite rooms will each comprise three of the former cells, and some original features of the prison will be preserved for inclusion in the new design.

Alex Attwood, the environment minister at Stormont, said: ‘This is a huge redevelopment scheme which will benefit all of Armagh and the surrounding areas for many years. It will contribute to the tourism potential of the Armagh area, providing much needed tourism accommodation within the city.’

As befits such an historic building, it has an intriguing past, having been the site of several hangings as well as featuring prominently in the sectarian conflicts of the 1970’s and 80’s. During that period the prison was used to detain female Republican prisoners, including those convicted of the London car bombings. Three of the women prisoners were involved in hunger strikes in 1980, as part of their demands for Republican prisoners to be given political status.